Reviewed by: Alan R. Pontier
Date posted: 02/06/2011
John (St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary), by R.C. Sproul. Published by Reformation Trust Publishing, 2009. Hardback, 414 pages, list price $27.00. Reviewed by OP pastor Alan R. Pontier.
R.C. Sproul is well known for his lecturing and writing ministry with Ligonier Ministries. In 1997 he became minister of preaching and teaching at St. Andrew's Chapel in Sanford, Florida. The St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary series consists of Sproul's sermons, edited and adapted for use as commentaries.
This volume on the gospel of John breaks the gospel into fifty-seven "bite-sized" sections. Each section of Scripture is accompanied by six or seven pages of comment. The tone is conversational rather than technical. Sproul liberally sprinkles his comments with personal anecdotes to illustrate his take on the biblical text. This makes the commentary very approachable for those who appreciate Sproul's style, though it can also be distracting. At times we wonder if the book is about John's gospel or Sproul's experiences in the ministry.
Sproul himself reminds us that the purpose of the commentary is not to provide a comprehensive study of the gospel. It is to serve as an introductory overview. For those who want to pursue further study, Sproul includes a list of more in-depth commentaries at the end of the book.
There is an unevenness in the commentary. In some sections, almost all the pages deal with one or two verses, while other sections receive just a cursory mention. For instance, the prologue of John (John 1:1–18) is covered in only about four short pages. Yet the prologue is a rich preview of what is to come. It is an overture to the symphony that John composes about all that Jesus taught and did. If there were a place to linger over the text, this would be it. Alas, it is all covered quickly and somewhat superficially.
On the other hand, when Sproul deals with a section that brings forth some aspect of Reformed theology, he handles it clearly and convincingly. For example, in his comments on John 6:37, together with its mirror verse in John 6:44, he brings out the foundational teachings of divine sovereignty and human inability. Sproul, the experienced author and teacher, shines best when dealing with passages like this.
Some readers, looking for more depth, may grow frustrated with the many anecdotes and often superficial coverage. Others, perhaps new to the Reformed faith, may find this volume a good basic guide to John's gospel and a springboard to further studies.